Joseph Libowsky,
former Special Agent

To become a police officer you need to go through a complicated hiring process and pass several exams. One of the mandatory tests is the written exam, which needs to be taken by all aspiring officers. The test checks basic ready and writing skills and makes sure that the applicant has the necessary knowledge required for the position of a police officer. 

There is no uniform written exam that is used through the country so every state and each department can decide which written exam to use. So, when you are browsing through the job openings, keep in mind that you might that if you are applying to several different departments, you may have to take several different exams, even if you are applying to departments within the same state. 

In order to help candidates, we have developed a series of guidelines focused on the written exams used by agencies in various states. Today’s focus is on Florida, which is in 2019 now has a single written test used by agencies throughout the state. That test is the Criminal Justice Basic Abilities Test (CJBAT).  

Florida police officer requirements 

If you have decided that the state of Florida is the place for your law enforcement career, you should know that there are four primary steps to becoming a certified officer in Florida:  

  1. Meet the minimum qualifications.
  2. Complete the required training.
  3. Pass the State Officer Certification Exam (SOCE).
  4. Become employed as a sworn officer.

 The state has established specific minimum requirements that each candidate for a law enforcement officer needs to meet in order to qualify for the job. Individuals must:  

  • be at least 19 years of age 
  • be a citizen of the United States 
  • have earned a high school diploma or equivalent (GED) for law enforcement and corrections applicants. A bachelors degree is required for correctional probation officers 
  • not have been convicted of any felony or of a misdemeanor involving perjury or false statement. Any person who, after July 1, 1981, pleads guilty or nolo contendere to, or is found guilty of a felony, or of a misdemeanor involving perjury or a false statement, shall not be eligible for employment or appointment as an officer, notwithstanding the suspension of sentence or withholding of adjudication 
  • never have received a dishonorable discharge from any of the Armed Forces of the United States 
  • have documentation of processed fingerprints on file with the employing agency 
  • pass a physical examination by a licensed physician, physician assistant, or certified advanced registered nurse practitioner 
  • have good moral character as determined by a background investigation under procedures established by the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission 

If you meet the above-listed requirements, the next step is to complete the required training. In case you are a new recruit or a former Florida officer with over 8 years break in service, you have to complete the Basic Abilities Test and the Basic Recruit or Cross-Over Training. If you are a former Florida officer with more than 4 years break in service but less than 8 years or an out of state, federal, or military officer – Active officer or less than 8 years break in service you need to complete an equivalency of training and demonstrate proficiency in high liabilities. 

The next step is to pass the State Officer Certification Exam (SOCE). The test is taken online and consists of 200 questions and the candidate needs to answer at least 80% to pass it successfully.  

The fourth step is to be recruited as an officer by a Florida agency. You have four years to choose an agency and start working there after completing the exams as listed above.  

Criminal Justice Basic Abilities Test (CJBAT)  

The CJBAT is developed by I/O Solutions and as of 2019 is the only written exam now used in Florida. It contains 125 multiple-choice questions that check three basic abilities – language, visualization, and reasoning ability. The test is divided into 10 subsections and you have 2 and a half hours to complete it:  

  • Written comprehension 
  • Written expression 
  • Oral expression, which checks your ability to articulate words and form sentences correctly so that you are understood 
  • Problem sensitivity  
  • Inductive reasoning  
  • Deductive reasoning  
  • Information ordering  
  • Memorization  
  • Spatial orientation  
  • Flexibility of closure, which determines if you can spot an object hidden among other similar objects – a suspect among other people, for example.   

The passing score is 79% and is valid for a period of 4 years.  

Florida police departments  

According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics’ 2008 Census of State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies, there are 387 law enforcement agencies in Florida employing 46,105 sworn police officers. If you want to join the law enforcement ranks, you can choose between the following type of agencies: 

  • Federal agencies 
  • State agencies 
  • County agencies 
  • City agencies 
  • University and college agencies 
  • School district agencies 
  • Airport agencies 
  • Native American tribe agencies 
  • Railroad police 
  • Private corrections  

When it comes to police departments, each county has its own primary police department and there can be several smaller ones within the territory. The largest police department in the state is Miami-Dade, followed by Tampa and Orlando.  

Miami-Dade Police Department 

Miami-Dade Police Department employs nearly 2,900 sworn officers and 1,700 support personnel. The department is the largest in the state of Florida and also in the Southeastern United States. It serves eight district stations in Miami0Dade county and a population of 2.5 million residents.  

There are 38 specialized units within the department. You can start as a Police Officer and grow to the post of a Director, passing through the ranks of Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain, Bureau Commander, Major, Deputy Chief or Division Chief, Assistant Director, and Deputy Director.  

Tampa Police Department 

The Tampa Police Department employs over 1,000 sworn officers and more than 350 civilian personnel. Tampa is one of the cities that recruits candidates who have college degrees, so you need to have an associate degree or two completed years of college to qualify. The other option is to have a high school diploma and 3 years of law enforcement experience. 

The ranks in the department start form a Police Officer, Master Police Officer, Corporal, Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain, Major, Deputy Chief, Assistant Chief of Police, and Chief of Police.  

Orlando Police Department 

Orlando Police Department employs more than 700 sworn officers and over 100 civilian personnel. There are several specialized units in the department including Traffic Enforcement, Marine Patrol, K-9 Unit, SWAT, Airport Division, Criminal Investigation Units and a few more.  

If you want to join Florida police, you need to be prepared to meet the requirements and pass the written tests authorized by the state. The article above contains the basic details about aspiring police officers but it is always advisable to check with the particular department if there are any specific requirements or procedures that you need to follow.